With the current concern on how taxpayer dollars are being spent (or misused), it took a television news report, rather than a newspaper investigation, to expose globe-trotting officials who spent $300,000 on a 17-day trip --- to study billboards, notes Grumpy Editor.
Credit goes to ABC News, spurred by a letter from seven Republican and one Democrat House members, for revealing the “research” junket to foreign lands, part of what is termed the International Scan Program (although some folks now may be tempted to use a similar-sounding middle word).
ABC said the program has been sending groups of federal and state workers on similar trips as often as four times a year for the past decade, at a total cost of nearly $12 million.
After the ABC report, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he was suspending the program.
The revelation started after some members of Congress learned that a dozen transportation officials traveled around the globe in a nine-city tour that took them to Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Great Britain.
That was “research” in preparation for a 76-page report about policies for dealing with billboard advertising.
ABC obtained photos of some members of the delegation toasting with wine glasses in Australia and driving the tulip-lined highways of Holland. Travel records show the group secured luxury accommodations and ate well at expensive restaurants.
"We recognize that our transportation system can benefit from understanding best practices abroad," read a June 17 letter from the eight House members to LaHood. "But we are unable to justify to the voters in our districts such spending in the face of rising gasoline prices and federal deficits."
The letter was signed by Reps. Jeff Denham (R., Calif.), Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), Rick Crawford (R., Ark.), Blake Farenthold (R., Texas), John Carter (R., Texas), Lou Barletta (R., Pa.), Steve Southerland (R., Fl.) and Randy Hultgren (R., Ill.).